Winning waters for Rams

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Nov 092006
 
Authors: Aaron Schoonmaker

It is believed that the best athletes are the ones who best respond to challenges. CSU swimming and diving Head Coach John Mattos is one of those believers.

“John has been trying to keep us in the water more this season,” said senior captain Brette Winegarner. “We’re doing weights three times a week now instead of two.”

If you need more proof, look no further than the most recent meet.

For the Nov. 2 meet at TCU, Mattos put his team through a schedule that would have made a traveling salesman look lazy.

“I’m a believer in pushing my squad,” said Mattos. “We have some great athletes this year and they rose to the occasion.”

On their recent visit to TCU, the shorthanded Rams (with just 13 swimmers, as opposed to the regular 17 or 18, and just three divers) took the hectic route. Already at a disadvantage personnel-wise, they made the trip in one day.

CSU took their 3-0 record to the airport and flew out during a normal person’s sleeping hours.

The traveled “from 4 a.m. until about 9:30 in the morning we landed, got in our bus and got to the hotel,” said Mattos. “Then we were in the pool by 11, had a quick lunch and nap and were back in the pool by 3:30.”

All things considered, this puts the team as an underdog, right?

“We have a relentless team,” said Mattos. “We have a tremendous mix of young talent and senior leadership with our two seniors (Winegarner and Chandra Engs) in the workout and competitive arenas.”

By 7:30 p.m. they had clinched their fourth victory of the season.

“It’s a good trip when you can come away with a good solid victory and lead from start to finish,” said Mattos. “We’ve got a lot of athletes that step up for us consistently and that makes it difficult for me when it comes to making the lineup every week.”

The most telling part of the season still lies ahead for the Rams. January meetings against defending conference champion Utah and this year’s conference favorite BYU are still to come, though swimming at home should help.

“It’s good to compete at home, especially for the freshman,” said Winegarner. “Last year we started with a couple losses and that was very discouraging, but this year we have started awesome, blowing people away, and I think that is a real confidence booster for everyone.”

Juniors Karin Knudson and Elyse Hall, along with freshman Nikki Kelley, lead the way for the divers.

“Karin has also helped us out in some of the sprints to get us some good times,” said Mattos. “She’s so versatile.”

But before the Rams look too far ahead, they have a couple key pool dates first.

Tuesday, CSU will be at Denver against a Pioneer squad that has taken two in a row from the Rams. Thursday is the first day of the Speedo Cup in Long Beach, Calif.

“Traveling is exciting even with a smaller team,” said Engs. “It gives us a chance to see other teams like the Stanfords.”

Sports staff writer Aaron Schoonmaker can be sports@collegian.com.

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